What Successful Coworking Spaces Do About Competition

There are four tiers of hierarchy when it comes to the perception of competition as a coworking space. We’ll go through them in order, from the least advantageous to the most. That is to say, we’ll start with the perception that unsuccessful coworking spaces have and we’ll finish with the point of view held by the most successful coworking spaces around the world. Please note, this is not my opinion. I have seen this play out in wildly different coworking markets around the world, from the United States to Europe to Asia, with my own eyes. I’ve also heard first-hand accounts from owners and managers that all point to the same conclusion.

Perspective #1: The Competitive Mindset

Almost invariably the modern coworking space founder starts with the perception that the competition is a threat that must be analyzed, guarded against, and ultimately beaten.

They invent marketing and sales tactics to try to steal customers from the competition. They obsess over marketing campaigns and conversion metrics.

At the same time, these founders tend to be really cheap. Because they are focused on competition, they are also focused on scarcity. The scarcity mindset trickles into every facet of the business and community. The space that once promised so much begins to feel manufactured, propped up, and fake.

What’s more, the posture of competitiveness diminishes your standing in the greater community. Partners and leaders you need will begin to wonder what your real motives are.

The competitive mindset comes from fear. Fear of failure, fear of others, fear of judgment.

Ultimately the competitive mindset achieves the opposite of what it was intended to.

Perspective #2: The Ignorance Mindset

Ignoring the competition is infinitely better than competing with them.

When you ignore the competition you’re doing your own thing. You’re only trying to beat the thing you did yesterday. Because you’re saving so much time not worrying about what others in your area are doing, you free up a lot of energy to focus on what your members want and need. You have more time to analyze what’s working and what’s not. You have more time to focus on what really matters.

Members notice this increase in attention and they love it. They don’t want you worrying about the WeWork opening down the street. They want you to make them feel like they belong to something really fucking important.

Perspective #3: The Collaborative Mindset

Spaces that collaborate shift from the idea that one space is better than another. They adopt the idea, “not better nor worse, but different.” This space is great for these people, that space is good for those people. Because they communicate openly they funnel the right members to the right places. When a prospect shows up for a tour at one space and isn’t a fit, they get an instant recommendation to a place that will feel like home for them.

This openness creates a more fluid marketplace. Partnerships, members, and resources flow less encumbered. For example, an investor in one space could easily invest in another because she knows they serve different purposes and audiences. A partner can work with both. A member could have memberships to both, one for work, one for events and socializing.

The Collaborative Mindset is not a zero-sum game. It’s an infinite game, one you want to keep on playing because it’s enjoyable.

Collaborative spaces always outperform competitive spaces and often outperform ignorant spaces simply because they are better connected, more aware of their surroundings, and have an abundance mindset.

Perspective #4: The Leadership Mindset

The highest level of thinking in the competitive landscape is to not only collaborate with those around you but to lead them, to take responsibility for their success as well as your own, to take responsibility for the success of the region and the market.

Leaders in our industry achieve wild success, garner intense loyalty, and even evangelism. They benefit from being on the tips of everybody’s tongues. Think about Indy Hall and Hubud. Both incredibly generous leaders, both have intense loyalty, both very well-known. Each is incredibly invested in their local area beyond the success of their coworking spaces. They see their space as a platform for positive impact in their region, not just a box filled with desks.

And they want that success for others in their region and around the world as well. This is why the Hubud team started CU Asia and CAAP. This is why the Indy Hall team started Coworking Weekly, recorded The First Ten, and put on the People at Work Summit.

A lesser-known example which I’ve written about a lot lately is Impact Hub Budapest. In fact, the Budapest coworking ecosystem is filled with leaders, which I witnessed at the Budapest Coworking Conference last month. The leaders at Loffice, KAPTÁR, and Impact Hub Budapest are all heavily invested in the growth of their region and coworking, again, is only a platform for the change they are seeking to make together. And yes, they also happen to be the most successful coworking spaces in the city.

It turns out that when you’re the space leading other spaces your members notice. Partners notice. Investors notice. The government notices. They all want to follow the leader. They want to be a part of the story. To be a part of the community that is taking the risks and making headway. In fact, the subtle but often unspoken truth is we all want to be led. Those who take on the posture of leadership are just those who can’t find anybody else good enough to lead us to where we all want to go.

Leaders always get the best opportunities and they always get the best members.

Ryan Chatterton
ryan@coworkinginsights.com

Ryan is the founder of Coworking Insights, a coworking media platform focused on delivering unique and in-depth insights for coworking founders and their teams. He’s the Marketing Director at Habu, a quickly growing coworking management platform that is simple, fast, and intuitive for managing recurring billing, bookings, and other admin tasks. Formerly with Impact Hub and PARISOMA, Ryan now has over 4 years of combined experience in a variety of roles in the coworking industry, including marketing, events, operations, sales, software, and partnerships. He’s a digital nomad and a lover of wine and tacos.